PH to buy only safe and effective vaccines –Roque

Published December 15, 2020, 9:50 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The government is not playing favorites among potential coronavirus vaccine suppliers and will get only the safe and effective medicines available in the market, Malacañang said Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. (YANCY LIM/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the statement after defending the government’s decision to initially acquire millions of doses of China-made vaccines to protect Filipinos from the new coronavirus disease. The vaccines developed by Sinovac Biotech are so far the only available for delivery early next year, according to Roque.

“Lilinawin ko pong muli: Dalawa po ang criteria natin – dapat ligtas; dapat epektibo (I want to make it clear again: We have two criteria – it must be safe and it must be effective),” Roque said during a televised press briefing Tuesday.

“Kung makakakuha tayo ng Pfizer, ng AstraZeneca…at saka Moderna and Johnson and Johnson, well and good po. Pero ngayon (If we can get from Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, well and good but right now) the market is really demand-driven and we will get what can procure. Wala po tayong favorites (We have no favorites),” he said.

The government earlier announced plans to finalize negotiations with Chinese biopharmaceutical firm Sinovac this week to acquire 25 million doses of vaccines for delivery early next year. Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. announced Monday that the Chinese company is committed to supply the vaccines by April 2021 but the government is negotiating the delivery by March instead.

Roque explained that the government decided to get supplies from Sinovac since it could not get supply commitment from Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Moderna early next year.

“Ang dahilan kung bakit kumukuha tayo ng Sinovac kasi iyon lang po talaga ang magbibigay ng supply sa lalong mabilis na panahon at hindi naman po natin bibilhin iyan kung hindi sasabihin ng FDA (Food and Drug Authority) na ito ay ligtas at ito po ay epektibo (The reason we are getting supplies from Sinovac because it is the only one that will give us supply as soon as possible. We will not buy if the FDA would say it is not safe and effective),’ he said.

He admitted that Pfizer could only commit vaccine delivery between the second and third quarter of 2021. “Hindi naman po katanggap-tanggap kay Presidente na mag-aantay ng ganoong katagal (That is unacceptable to the President, to wait that long),” he added.

Roque said the cost of the vaccine is also part of the government’s consideration.

“Pero ang sagot po diyan, eh ngayon po talagang provided it is safe and it is effective. Sa tingin ko po limited na iyong aspeto ng price, dahil emergency situation po tayo ngayon at limitado talaga ang mga vaccine (But the answer for now provided it is safe and it is effective, I think the aspect of price is limited because we are in an emergency situation and the vaccine is really limited),” he said.

Budget Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao said Sinovac is one of the “most cooperative” and “most active vaccine suppliers” negotiating with the country.

“They are making commitments and they’re responding positively sa atin, that’s why Sinovac is one of the most active vaccine suppliers that’s negotiating with our country because they have the imprimatur of China itself,” he said during the online press briefing.

Lao said the President’s instruction is to get the vaccine for the protection of Filipinos. “So whatever is the safest and the most effective and available, that we will get. The cost and the price will be taken care of by DOF (Department of Finance) that’s their concern and DBM’s concern,” he said.

Dr. Anthony Leachon, former adviser of the national task force against coronavirus, earlier expressed concern over the government’s priority for the Sinovac vaccine despite the alleged insufficient safety and efficacy data.